Epic Cake and Office Chairs

So much for staying caught up! Let’s just ignore the fact that I haven’t posted in months, shall we?

Anyway, I wanted to post about my husband’s birthday earlier this year. There are two reasons why: 1) I made the most amazing, most epic, most legen-(wait-for-it)-dary birthday cake ever, and 2) I tried my hand at reupholstering a chair.

Now about that chair. It is an office chair. My husband’s favorite office chair, and despite continued use for several years, it is still in relatively good condition. The only problem was that the seat and arms had gotten pretty scuffed up. I figured I could by him a new one, but good chairs aren’t cheap, and finding one that fits a 6’7″ tall man comfortably can be a bit of a challenge. So I decided to try to fix the old one. If I failed miserably we could go chair-shopping, and if I succeeded we could put that money toward a new tablet. Hubby loves his new tablet.

My plan was to fix the chair after work while my husband was at his job and not say a word. That way, he’d eventually sit in the chair, discover the transformation, and be happily surprised. I planned for everything: bought the material in advance and looked up tips on sewing vinyl, located the screw gun and stapler in the garage, tested a couple screws on the chair to know that I could actually unscrew them. Thus since the sewing part didn’t take too long, my plan would have totally worked!… except for the fact that I apparently tested the wrong screws, as I couldn’t completely unscrew the arms from the chair. So I did get caught mid seat-stapling, but it was still an awesome surprise for the hubster nonetheless.

Unfortunately I am still not in the habit of taking pictures of my projects, so I didn’t get a before picture of the poor chair. But I did remember this fact and get a pic while in the process.

Here is the chair’s seat after being detached from said chair. It has apparently seen better days, but what can you expect from something that gets sat on repeatedly for a living?

As you can see, the seat was not in the greatest shape. The arms were not any better, as they often got scratched along the lip of the desk. So a makeover was definitely in order, and it was actually pretty easy. I just took apart the seat pieces at the stitches to use as a pattern, cut out the new vinyl, and sewed it together. I didn’t have any issues with the material sticking to the foot of my sewing machine since I used a type with a fabric backing, though in my research I found that simply sticking clear tape to the foot would solve this problem. I added a new piece of foam to make the seat a little cushier, and stapled the cover around it on the back. I found the material was a little difficult to stretch and the wood backing was pretty hard to staple into, so I’d suggest if you try something similar to make your pattern a bit longer along the edges. Having an extra pair of hands would certainly help, too, if you’re not trying to be stealthy like me!

So Hubby helped me disengage the arms from the chair and I got them recovered, as well. So now the office chair looks as good as new!

 

But that’s not why you’re reading this, is it? You’re here because you want to know about the birthday cake of amazingness and chocolate on top of chocolate with cheesecake and Oreo crust. Read on.

 

The original cake recipe is NOT mine. I found it on Pinterest as I was looking for supped-up versions of German Chocolate Cake (a husband favorite). There a couple other good contenders, such as this one and these brownies/bars, but this recipe for German Chocolate Cheesecake by Julie from Willow Bird Baking takes the cake. Literally.

This picture was taken with my phone, and does not do this legendary cake justice. Please don’t judge this cake by this picture alone. This cake is not a lie!

Now when I made this cake, I wanted to spend more time birthday-celebrating than cooking, so I took a few shortcuts. Instead of making the cake portion from scratch, I used a Devil’s Food cake mix. And for the filling I used a premixed container of Coconut Pecan icing. I’m sure following the recipe to an exact science would make this cake even better, but my version was still nearly mind-blowing, and I would hate to lose my head completely.

I also didn’t have a springform pan, though I now know why on earth I need one. So when I made the Cheesecake portion I baked it in a pie dish and then place a Cake halve on top. Now this method of using a purchased cake mix yielded twice as much cake as needed, and I simply can’t just waste cake. So I ended up actually making two of these amazing cheesecake cakes.

This first cake I made as a German Chocolate Cheesecake as her recipe states (just with the couple substitutes). For the second cake, I was out of the pecan icing, so I used Chocolate Fudge icing. This second, chocolate on chocolate, cake didn’t have as much Oreo crust or Chocolate Ganache as the German chocolate version, but it was still epically good. So good, in fact, that my husband took this cake to work the next night to celebrate with his coworkers. There were only five or so of them working that night, yet the entire cake vanished. And my husband didn’t even get a slice! This chocolate version of the cake was so good, so gosh-darn-chocolately-cheescakey-get-in-my-mouth-right-now good, that people at my husband’s workplace STILL TALK ABOUT IT. And it has been seven months since his birthday.

So I greatly recommend trying this mouth-watering, rich, never has there been so much chocolate in one bite, cheesecake full of goodness cake before you die. Or don’t. Because this cake is so amazing, it just might ruin all other cakes for you for the rest of your life. Let this be a warning; this cake is good.

A Tractor! And Why I’ve Gotten So Behind…

Just when I had finally gotten a blog going, as I had planned for some time, I let myself get off track. Why?

Well, I have a good excuse – I got a new, full-time job. And it’s been keeping me very, very busy. But I’m still crafting (you couldn’t keep me away!), and I still plan on sharing, even if it takes me a while…

So, without further ado: the last installment of awesome children’s Christmas toys 2012!

The third stuffed toy I made was not from a drawn picture, being that the recipient (K. W. 2) of this gift is quite young, and I actually had a bit of a pattern.

Back when I was searching for a tractor afghan pattern (which I never found) for K. W. 2’s blankie, I came across this adorable pattern for a crochet stuffed tractor from Look At What I Made. I planned on making one to go along with the afghan, but ran out of time. When I started making the Christmas toys for his brothers, I remembered the toy tractor and thought I’d get back to making him one – but with a twist.

Instead of following the pattern and making it in crochet, I sewed the tractor from fleece!

The tractor pattern is made up of just a few basic shapes. Rather than crochet the shapes out of yarn, I just cut them out of fleece fabric. Exact dimensions aren’t given in the pattern, but it wasn’t too difficult to freehand cut out a piece (I think I started with the side) and cut the others to match up when sewn together. I cut the details out of felt and sewed them on all around with a satin stitch. The wheels were simply circles sewn together with a band in between. I attached them to the tractor body by hand-sewing around the yellow rims to make them poofy. Easy peasy!

It did turn out a bit bigger than I had planned, but it’s super soft and squishy – a very huggable toy. And maybe K. W. 2 can even ride it. =0)

Here it is carrying the whale. I tossed the whale up there after I had them both finished, and it reminded me of a Jeep with a surfboard on top. A tractor carrying a whale… it just makes me laugh.

Christmas Toys 2012:

The Rocket

The Whale

And the Tractor

Rocketing around the Christmas Tree

Somehow it suddenly became February! What happened?

Anyway, I’ve been so wanting to share the next installment of children’s toy Christmas goodness! I posted about the stuffed whale I made for my nephew here. Here is the toy I made for his older (turning 8 this month) brother:

It’s a rocket!

I was excited, yet intimidated, to get started on this projectile of a project. B. W. added some great detail to his drawing, which resulted in 34 windows! Luckily my awesome husband bought me an embroidery machine last year, but it still took a few days just to get the embroidering part done.

This toy is made of flannel, rather than fleece like the whale. I thought it would work better for a toy more likely to be thrown than hugged (not that it isn’t huggable :)), and that the windows and other details would show up better. I made the “fire” at the end of the rocket out of some great sequined fabric I’ve had for ages. It was great to finally find the perfect use for it.

Run, little Christmas wall-village people! Run!

Here’s the original artwork by B. W.:

And here is the rocket with the artist himself:

I was anxious to find out what he thought of my flannel and fiber rendition of his drawing. His mom tells me he thinks it’s perfect. I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Christmas Toys 2012:

The Rocket

The Whale

And the Tractor

A Whale of a Time this Christmas!

Wow! I can’t believe I haven’t posted about my favorite Christmas project for 2012 yet. It was so hard to wait until after the holidays, and here it is nearing the end of January already!

We had a whale of a good time this Christmas, and in more ways than one. A few months ago I found out about Child’s Own Studio, and thought it was just about the most adorable thing I had ever heard of. Wendy makes customized toys for kids based on their own drawings. I hadn’t really made toys before, but I so wanted to give it a try. I have a few little nephews on my husband’s side of the family, and I thought I’d try making some “stuffies” for them. I figured it would be a win-win; I’d get to try my hand at kids’ toys, and they would (hopefully) get some fun, customized Christmas presents.

Enter the whale.

K. W. (5 years old) enjoys drawing whales. His mom sent me a few of his drawings, and I just fell in love with his fantastic version of these sea creatures. I pictured them having white, fuzzy tummies (for some strange reason!), so I used furry fleece for the tummy and anti-pill fleece for the rest of the body. The eyes are felt with buttons in different sizes to be accurate to the drawing and preserve this blue beluga’s great personality.

I used purple ribbon for the stripes, and stitched on the mouth by hand. The spout was a tad difficult to figure out. I wanted it to stay soft and huggable, but also look water-like. I ended up using some chiffon left over from a dress. It’s probably not common in kids’ toys, but it did the trick!

This fuzzy fella was the first of the three toys I made, and he became quite popular around our house. I don’t know what he has been officially named, but here he earned the nickname of Wonky the Whale. He just has such a cute, goofy personality. Here’s the original drawing:

Look familiar? I sure hope so, as that was the point!

And here’s my happy nephew with his drawing and his new straight-from-the-page stuffed animal. I hope he enjoys it for years to come. Our pal Wonky also makes a great pillow!

Stay tuned for two more toys I made for my nephews, as well as my other crafting projects for Christmas 2012 gifts. I’m really behind, so I hope to post about them soon!

Christmas Toys 2012:

The Rocket

The Whale

And the Tractor

Hosting My First Swaps

I love Swap-Bot. I’ve been a member for over a year now, and I love to join crafty and ATC swaps. I’ve never hosted any swaps, however – until now.

Though I collect snowflake ornaments, and I was given an angel one every Christmas as a kid, I also love unique ornaments to hang on our tree. I make or buy an ornament for my husband every Christmas that has to do with something special or big that happened that year. We’ve got trains, tools, and even a palm tree to hang on our tree. Last year I got the hubby this ornament to remind us of our cruise to the Caribbean and swimming with the stingrays.

Thus, I’m pretty fond of unique and interesting Christmas ornaments. And I love making things specifically for a person – be it friend, family member, or swap partner. So I thought it would be fun to swap handmade, doesn’t-have-to-be-Christmas-related ornaments on Swap-Bot. I didn’t see any swaps like it (not surprised), so I decided to host one. Then it turned into two as I was asked to make an International version.

I have some watchers, though not many have signed up as of yet. I was hoping to get a lot of members to join, but it’s getting pretty close to Christmas already and people are busy. Wish I had thought of it sooner. If I host it again next year I will leave more time. No matter how many swappers join up, I know it will be a ton of fun!

Flashback Friday – Kindle/Ipad Case

Back in March I signed up for a Kindle Case swap on Swap-Bot. The point was to make a Kindle cover for your partner, or in my case, an Ipad case as that was what my partner had. I looked at many, many cute cases (both with tutorials and without) online, but I just wasn’t sure which one my partner would like. Since most of the swappers loved the one listed as an example on the swap’s page, I decided to go with that. The example case was a patchwork version from the Sometimes Crafter, found here.

Because my partner needed a case for her Ipad, which is a bit bigger than a Kindle, I had to make a few adjustments for it to fit. And because I never follow any craft instructions exactly, I also made some other changes. =0) I chose to use quilted fabric strips (by color) rather than squares, and I added Velcro closures – though I sewed on some matching buttons on top just for extra cuteness. I also lined the inside with a soft material to keep the Ipad extra safe from bumps and scratches.

I loved how it turned out. It can be hard to part with things you make, but since it was a swap I also got a similar Kindle case in return.

Strips of different material I used. I love my green mice fabric. <3

Front side.

Back side.

Marines Keep Me Up All Night

Yesterday I got this text from my brother:

Hey, are you up for any last-minute alterations?

 

Soon after:

Did I tell you that you’re my most favoritest older sister?

 

I’m his only older sister. =0)

Ah, brothers. This particular one, AW, is in the reserves, and it turns out their annual Marine Corps Ball is today. His dress blues coat was much too small, and he wanted me to alter it. I had worked on it last year, but wasn’t able to make it much bigger due to a need for more red trim to sew across the bottom. This time he came prepared; he brought an extra (also non-fitting) coat to use for “parts.” It was a funny way to go about it, but it did the trick. There’s a waiting list, and the uniforms are quite expensive, so at least he has me!

Nyan Cat Kitty Costume

Remember the Giant Felt Popt-tart? Well, here’s who I made it for:

Our cat, Shadow, went as Nyan Cat this Halloween. He enjoyed it immensely, as you can see.

Not familiar with the Nyan Cat phenomenon? Here’s the pastry cat in all his glory:

No, nothing else happens. There’s no need to watch the whole thing.

Anyway, I thought I’d give an update to the tutorial on how to turn a felt Pop-tart into a Nyan Cat kitty costume.

Nyan Cat Costume Tutorial

1. Follow the instructions to make a felt Pop-tart here, but before sewing around the pastry edges (Number 5), pin some rainbow ribbon or fabric into one of the short edges. I used three ribbon strands of each color (about 1 yard in length) because I coudn’t find any rainbow fabric, but fabric would be easier to deal with. If you use ribbon, running a regular glue stick across the inside edge of the felt helps to position and hold the ribbon before sewing.

2. Finish Pop-tart as per instructions. Then cut two small rectangles (mine were 2″ x 3″) out of felt, a stronger material, or both. (I made two of cotton and two of felt to cover them.) Fold the rectangles in half, and cut twice into the folded edge. Unfold.

Nice to Meet You: Six Favorite Crafting Tools

It’s another installments of the Nice to Meet You series! The question for this one is: what are your six favorite tools?

As a seamstress and crocheter, I use several different tools. Here are six of my favorites – that I could not live without!

1. Sewing Machine

I <3 sewing machines. If it weren’t for them, I probably would have stopped sewing long ago. Hand-sewing can be such a time-consuming pain!

My awesome husband got me a Husqvarna Viking Topaz 20 sewing/embroidery machine for my birthday this year. I call it my “everything machine” because it can, in a nutshell, do just about anything! I just tell it what fabric I’m sewing and what type of stitch, and it adjusts everything itself and tells me what foot and needle to use. And it fills a bobbin from the needle – no un-threading required. How awesome is that?

I also have a Singer Confidence 7467 we got at Joann’s a few years ago when it first came out. It’s a good machine, has a drop-in bobbin, and several fun stitches. The needle always stops in the “up” position, which can be really useful for some sewists, though it drives me nuts!

2. Crochet Hook

I can’t knit for the life of me, but I crochet with a passion! All you need in order to crochet is a hook – that’s all. And I have several, of course. =0) I tend to crochet with worsted weight yarns, so my favorite hooks are sizes H/5.00 mm and G/4.25 mm. I’ve got teeny, tiny crochet hooks for thread to very large hooks for chunky yarns or crocheting with several strands at a time. I just got a size Q/16mm the other day, and I still want to go bigger! But it’s the Gs and Hs that get used the most – and thus purchased the most, as they end up lost in the car, in the couch cushions, in the middle of a skein of yarn…

3. Scissors

You can’t do much in sewing, or crocheting either, without a way to cut fabric/yarn/thread. Enter scissors. An awesome invention, you’ll probably want a couple pairs. Or three. Or four. Or 10.

Besides trying to keep pairs of scissors (or “skizzors,” as they are often called in our house) in common areas where I might want them, I have several in my sewing room. And several different types. Sharp, pointed scissors are great for cutting threads and seam allowances on tiny hems. But for cutting material I prefer spring-loaded scissors. Much easier on the hands!

4. Iron and Ironing Board

I work a lot at my ironing board, so I have it permanently set up. I often pin and iron at the same time, so the ironing board sometimes gets used as a table. It’s also higher than a table, so it’s easier to work at while standing. I’m terrible about actually sitting down to work unless I’m at a sewing machine/serger! We’ve got a Shark Lightweight Professional that works really well and can also steam while upright. My husband loves it for his work uniforms, and I love that he irons his own uniforms. =0)

5. Disappearing Ink Pen

My mom originally taught me to use chalk to mark fabric. Chalk can work quite well on dark materials, but I tend to work with white satins and sheers and chalk just doesn’t cut it. (Not actually “cut it” of course. That was scissors back at number 3.)

I love my purple Pictogram Pen that came with my Viking embroidery machine. It makes my life so much easier! It shows up on just about any color, and it usually disappears within 24 hours without having to use any water. It’s the best I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried several. I’m not sure where to get another like it, however, so I am in great fear of its (inevitable) drying up!

6. Measuring Tape

I use flexible measuring tapes like crazy. I use them to measure pattern pieces, crochet squares, material, clothing. I use them to measure things while shopping to make sure they will fit where I would like. I use them to measure things around the house since I never know where my husband’s measuring tapes are. Yeah, I use them a lot. My favorite ones are retractable, and I even have a cute strawberry plush one. I love sewing gauges as well, but they tend to actually stay in the sewing room.

Flashback Friday – Hubby’s Cape

As I mentioned in Six Favorite Things I’ve Made, my husband is incredibly tall. Six feet, seven inches to be exact. Clothes and shoes his size can be hard to find. And costumes? Forget about it!

Hubby wanted a nice cape, and I was happy to oblige. Not only did I sew him a cape that actually fits (it reaches to the floor), but homemade costumes tend to be a lot better than store-bought. I used good material and fully lined it, so this cape looks great and will last. In fact, he’s worn it for a few Halloweens already. He loves it. Usually he dresses as a vampire, but he’s gotten creative with it, as well. You can do a lot with an awesome cape!

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